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Steroid Abuse & Young Athletes - Do we facilitate this problem?

Brian J Grasso discusses his concern about the use of steroids among young athletes.

Recent surveys conducted by the University of Michigan showed that 1 in every 30 high school males throughout this country is currently taking anabolic steroids. To some, this finding is trivial and represents an insignificant number within the grand scheme of high school athletics. To others, myself included, this reality is reflective of the sad state that the youth athletic community has found itself in over the past number of years.


Other statistics confirm that steroid use is happening, not only more often, but also with younger kids. The Sports Journal shows research that 1 in every 100 pre-adolescent children are currently taking steroids. This is comparable to a 1991 research study of high school football within the state of Indiana. This study polled 873 high school football players from 27 different high schools as to their involvement with steroids. 6% of the players admitted to having taken steroids - that is 52 kids. Of these 52 admitted steroid users, 15% of them indicated that they had first taken steroids while under the age of 10 years.

The most recent ergogenic aid to impact the youth athletics scene is Creatine.

Taken orally in its monohydrate form (due to increased absorption), creatine is a naturally occurring protein that we produce 1 gram of daily, primarily in the liver, and gallbladder. Dietary sources of Creatine include meat and fish. The average North American consumes 1-gram of Creatine daily through dietary means. Virtually all of the Creatine within our bodies, upwards of 95%, is stored within skeletal muscle.

The average human is capable of storing about 125 mmol/kg of Creatine within skeletal muscle. It has been shown through research that the human body has an upper limit in terms of Creatine storage. We are only able to store about 150 - 160 mmol/kg of Creatine within the body, thus the reason for supplementation. The theory is that increased intake of Creatine daily will eventually saturate our carrying capacity to the point that we can no longer store anymore. Advocates suggest that Creatine has an anabolic-type effect on our bodies and that at the highest ends of storage capacity, we can expect increased muscle mass, strength and power. Creatine detractors suggest that water retention is responsible for the increased muscular size and that a placebo effect is to account for any increases in strength or power. That is, we look bigger, so we train longer and harder; the increased strength is a result of the intense training, not Creatine supplementation.

That all being said, the most recent study conducted indicated that upwards of 40% of high school seniors throughout the United States are currently taking some performance-enhancing drug - Creatine is the most popular. 40%, that means half of the high school seniors in this country feel it necessary to supplement with a known ergogenic aid. Moreover, Creatine has been named a pre-cursor to steroids use. Kids who supplement with Creatine are more likely to take steroids as well eventually.

The point of this article could lead in several directions. I could discuss the negative effects of steroids and the proposed negative effects of supplementing with Creatine during the teenage years. I could discuss the possibilities of where kids are getting steroids - 10-year olds taking steroids? Who is buying it for them, and how are they getting it? Instead, I want to discuss what I feel may be one of the most important factors of this problem.

We are the problem.

I am talking to personal trainers, performance specialists and coaches out there.

  • Are we all optimally qualified to be working with kids?
  • Do we all understand the importance of paediatric exercise science or sports science in general?
  • Do we search for the right answers via independent research, or do we do what we have always done because we 'think' it is right?
  • If we trained and developed young athletes better, would they need ergogenic aids?
  • Suppose we all understood the concepts of long-term development and worked hard at keeping athletes free of injury and optimally conditioned. Would more than 40% of high school seniors be taking drugs?

The answer is: who knows.

Kids would still dope up on unethical and dangerous drugs. Then again, they would not have to.

By no means am I writing this from the top of a pedestal. I have changed my mind more than once when it comes to exercise prescription and theory that I 'thought' was right. The point is that for every good trainer or coach, there are several bad ones. It is one of the 'dirty little secrets' of our industry that we all talk about quietly, yet very few people bring out aggressively into the open. Trainers and coaches not caring to update their knowledge or struggling to find the best and most applicable way to train someone - these attitudes are commonplace within the youth sporting industry. An evolution is warranted.

Settling for less than an ideal means of training and developing a young athlete is a real and very concerning problem. To those of you who exhibit due diligence by educating yourselves on what is right and wrong for athletic development, ignore this message.

To those of you who do not - understand that you are least partially to blame for this tragic steroids' epidemic.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • GRASSO, B. (2006) Steroid Abuse & Young Athletes - Do we facilitate this problem? Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 29 / February), p. 9-10

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • GRASSO, B. (2006) Steroid Abuse & Young Athletes - Do we facilitate this problem? [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Brian Grasso is the President of Developing Athletics, which is a company dedicated to educating coaches, parents and youth sporting officials throughout the world on the concepts of athletic development. Brian can be contacted through his website at